Yellow Pages 360 helps SMBs create Web presence

Yellow Pages Group in Canada is rounding out its service offerings for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) with the recent launch of Yellow Pages 360 Degree Solution.

The new business-to-business campaign which launched last month provides a suite of services that include online, mobile, search engine optimization (SEO) and Web site development apart from their existing online business directory service.

“The Web development and optimization component rounds out our online B2B offering,” said Annie Marsolais, director of communication for YPG in Montreal.

Yellow Pages 360 is not a self-serve offering. For as low a $50 per month, businesses can have a three-page Web site developed for them and hosted by YPG, she said. The online business directory has set up a team that will help SMB operators create and customize a Web site from a number of site templates that YPG has. The team will also provide SEO and search engine marketing services as well as 24-7 technical support.

Prices can go up anywhere from $250 per month to $500 per month depending on the number of Web pages, e-mail addresses and online content such as images and video added to the site. A video crew from YPG can visit a business location, help the owners come up with a script and film a 60-second video about the businesses products and services. The video can be posted on the business’ Web site or Yellow Pages listing.

“We realize that staying on top in the online arena is tough for many small businesses. They are overwhelmed by the resources and expertise required to set up and manage a Web site, that is why we came up with Yellow Pages 360,” said Marsolais.

Yellow Pages recently began airing videos like the one above which are targeted at small businesses that are new to online advertising.

Boosting online adoption

Yellow Pages has a formidable online presence in Canada but for many people the name still conjures up images of a bulky yellow phone book.

“Yellow Pages is actually Canada’s number one Internet company,” said Marsolais.

Company revenues are around $500 million and advertisers are in excess of 240,000. Yellow Pages reaches 40 per cent of Canada’s online population, Marsolais said.

Late last year, Yellow Pages opened up its application programming interface (API) and allowed programmers to access to its vast database of customers and customer information.

This provided a huge opportunity for developers to create applications that enhance their Web presence but also enabled Yellow Pages to boost adoption of Yellow Pages’ online services, according to a Toronto based SEO expert Dev Basu.

This meant that businesses which kept an online registry would find it easier to have updated contact information of companies on their sites.

“For example if a company was running a wedding registry site, that company no longer needs to periodically call up wedding related businesses to get their current addresses and phone number. With access to the Yellow Pages API, their list becomes updated automatically,” said Basu, president of Powered by Search.

This also facilitated the creation of many useful mash-ups, he said. “For example, a developer can more easily create an online or mobile map application for emergency clinics in Toronto by simply using the YPG API to get the addresses or all Yellow Pages listed emergency clinics in the city.”

YellowPages 360 will be a boon to many small businesses that are looking to dip their toes into the Internet market for the first time, Basu adds.

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He said the new service will likely be welcomed by small businesses that so far have not launched a Web site because they are hampered by budget constraints or lack of expertise.

“Maybe launching a Web site doesn’t figure yet in the marketing cycle, perhaps their budget doesn’t allow it or they’re still mulling about whether to have the site designed in-house of by an outside professional. Yellow Pages 360 will be a good fit for these companies. It will provide a good first step to launching a Web site right away and cheaply,” Basu said.

Powered by Search, is a full service SEO firm that helps businesses develop Web sites and Basu admits that in a way Yellow Pages could be eating into his market. However, Powered by Search also provides services in areas such as: search optimization; paid search marketing and social media search marketing; Web analytics and call tracking; and conversion rate optimization.

While Yellow Pages 360 might appeal to many small businesses looking for a Web site in a snap, Basu said larger companies or SMBs seeking a site with differentiating factors will likely still seek out Web specialty firms and SEO outfits.

“Companies like ours offer a more tailored approach to Web services. Clients seek us out because they want to ramp up their Web presence and avoid cookie cutter solutions or sites developed from a template,” Basu said.

From phonebook to search engine

Yellow Page’s newest service is part of an ongoing evolution of the former phonebook-based classified ads into an Internet-based search engine for good and services, according to Basu.

“Although phonebooks are still used in many areas, Yellow Pages realize that this medium is in a plateau stage and the company has been nimble enough to switch online with the launch of YellowPages.ca several years ago,” the SEO specialist said.

Since then, Yellow Pages has launched an iPhone application and bought RedFlagDeals.com, a consumer-oriented Web forum for sales and discounts. The firm also bought search marketing business Enquiro, based in Kelowa, B.C., and folded that entity into a new firm now called Mediative. This provides Yellow Pages with SEO expertise.

Recently Yellow Pages also obtained a stake in Aquisio a Quebec-based company that helps businesses manage pay-per-click marketing campaigns. “This provides Yellow Pages with a platform for interaction with Google’s AdWords, Bing’s AdCentre and Yahoo’s Search Marketing,” said Basu.

Basu sees four main components of Yellow Pages’ current strategy:

  • Selling actual online ads for businesses appearing on YellowPages.ca
  • Building affordable and hosting affordable Web sites
  • Providing SEO services

“We still don’t know how effective Yellow Pages 360 will be but so far it looks like a good intermediary move towards a more mature Web presence for many small businesses,” said Basu.

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